For me and my three children, Father’s Day has morphed into a different kind of celebration. Let me put this into context: Two years ago, my husband Matthew passed away, leaving us heartbroken, hurting, and despite the fact that his prognosis was no surprise, left us devastated.
Last year was the first Father’s Day without him. And as a way to protect my kids from the constant reminder that their father had passed away and avoid the hurt it would cause, I did my best to hide the holiday from my kids. As far as they were concerned, it was just another Sunday.
So I kept the TV off and avoided all mention of Father’s Day brunches and BBQs when they asked what “so and so” was up to that day.
But this year, things have shifted.
I’m happy to share that we are in a better place and have adapted to our new normal. Father’s Day does not feel like a glaring reminder of what we have lost, but rather a way to honour Matthew as a dad. This year, we chose to focus on the good times rather than the sad. My kids will always have a father, after all, so why not celebrate him?
My middle son Zachary, now almost 7 years old, came home from school last week with a Father’s Day card he had made for Matthew (even though he was given the choice to make the card for any other male figure in his life). He proudly showed me his creation and instantly my heart melted and broke at the same time, as it often does when I look at Zachary. Because not only does he look like Matthew, but he has his Dad’s kind soul.
While admiring Zachary’s card for Matthew, I wasn’t sure how to react: should I worry that he might need more therapy? Does he require guidance in understanding the finality of death? Or is he just a little boy thinking about his father in a positive way? Zachary helped me out by asking me how I could get the card to daddy. Holding back tears, I suggested we visit Matthew’s grave and lo and behold, his face lit up and he said that he’d love that.
Perhaps this visit will help Zachary — in some small way — deal with the ongoing struggle to understand the loss we all experienced. Once again my kids have shown me how resilient they are.
As I often do, I called my Case Manager, Rifky, and she agreed that visiting the cemetery was a wonderful idea. Chai Lifeline knew exactly what we needed and that day Zachary’s volunteer, took him out for a special treat to give him that much needed one-on-one time.
My goal, as we move forward with our lives and with every future Father’s Day, is to do things that Matthew enjoyed and celebrate him. So yesterday we played in the park, went for ice cream and kicked around a soccer ball on our front lawn. We had chicken for dinner — a Matthew favourite! — and watched a movie.
As for me, simply looking at my kids, listening to my eldest, Brooke (10) sing just like her dad, watching Zachary furrow his brow just like Matthew, or catching my youngest, Joshua (5) giving me a sideways glance so similar and reminiscent of my late husband, is all I need to sustain me.
I think Matthew would be proud of how far we’ve come. This was even more evident when Brooke told me that this year, she made me a Father’s Day card because I am a mother and a father to them. Basically, the best compliment I could have ever gotten.